Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas, But Your Slogans Are No Longer Kicking A$$


Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas, But Your Slogans Are No Longer Kicking A$$

Illustration: Akshita Monga

As the Modi government completes four years today, expect your weekend reading to be filled with liberal rants on how this tenure has been mainly about stalking and saffronising. But to me, the last four years have been about advertising. Advertising has given us many great slogans (and paid many of my bills), but the slew of fantastically catchy political slogans that began to hit us four years ago have given the best of us admen many sleepless nights.

The BJP in these last four years has pretty much set the template for political advertising. Their work, from the technical standpoint of copywriting, communication design, and strategy, has been flawless. Ask any writer and they’ll tell you coming up with acronyms is no mean task. But when it comes to this government, they roll out acronyms like they’re in an episode of Mad Men. VIP gave way to EPI – Every Person is Important. SCAM went from something the Samajwadi Party, Congress, Akhilesh and Mayawati did, to becoming their identity. ABCD – A for Adarsh, B for Bofors, C for Coal and D for Damaad. It’s endless: No wonder Prasoon Joshi was almost drooling as he questioned the PM. Prasoon knows talent when he sees it.

Then came the lines  – Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi; Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas; Acche Din, and the best of the lot, Minimum Government, Maximum Governance. You must understand that from a copywriter’s perspective, these weren’t just lines; these were torchbearers of communication design.

As a copywriter, you can’t help but worship the man for the succinctness of his message, the cadence of the lines, but even if you’re a strategic planner, you are right behind in the queue of devotees. Move over selling Dairy Milk as “meetha”. The man who sold demonetisation as patriotism, gas cylinders as dignity, and made bank accounts all about independence, is here. Communication and marketing professionals have a new hero today. You can’t give the Supreme Leader a Cannes. He is Cannes.

So when the election slogan for 2019 was announced, I was as happy as a child on a Christmas morning, excited about the gifts in store. But when I clicked the link that promised to unveil the next piece of mastery, my world crashed. The 2019 slogan for BJP’s big tryst with destiny is… drum roll…. “Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas, 2019 Mein Phir Modi Sarkar”. End of slogan.

You can’t give the Supreme Leader a Cannes. He is Cannes.

What? Where? Why? On a scale of 1 to 10 of feeling let down, this is an 11. This is entering the theatre to see Race 3 and finding Baghban is playing. I mean, Phir Ek Baar, Modi Sarkar? Where is that rhythm, rhyme, and sass?

I knew of course that their sloganeering game has been having a bit of a downtime when they came up  Sankalp Se Siddhi. Come on. Who are Sankalp and Siddhi? Do they live in the building? Are they friends of Vikas? But that chap’s missing anyway, so who were they? Nobody knew. Nobody cared.

When the standards are set so high, it’s difficult to keep up each and every time. I can vouch for it as a copywriter. You create stuff on the go and it eventually backfires. Sankalp and Siddhi didn’t catch on and they were quietly and quickly retired. Nobody heard of them again. But this new one makes the Sankalp and Siddhi debacle look like a Cannes entry.  

It is perhaps time to acknowledge that the era of great slogans is now over. Maybe Modi has realised he doesn’t need great slogans anymore. He has our trust, our fandom, our notes, our attention, our love, our adulation, our respect, and our data. We’re eating out of his hands as he sways gently from side to side as he speaks into the mic. We cling on to every word he utters. He has no opposition. The Kurta-Sleeve-Pulling Machine aka, Rahul isn’t going to make the cut.  

Slogans are so 2014. They are for the insecure, for the needy, for the ones who are doubtful about their fate. As we stand today, the only thing more certain than Modi being PM again is the sun rising from the east. He knows now that slogans won’t win the next elections. Modi himself will.

Kyunki jo desh se karey pyaar, woh Modi se kaise karey inkaar?